Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

New books

By Stephen Luntz

Your guide to new science books this month.

The Best Australian Science Writing 2012

Edited by Elizabeth Finkel, New South Publishing, $29.99

After starting the Best Australian Science writing series in 2011, New South Publishing has introduced the Bragg UNSW Press Prize for Science Writing. The winner of this prize, along with other entries, are included in this volume, including pieces by prominent writers such as Julian Cribb, Margaret Wertheim and Nobel Prize winner Brian Schmidt. Peter McAllister’s cover story for Australasian Science’s May 2011 edition was announced as a runner up on 22 November 2012.

The Practical Skywatcher’s Handbook

David H. Levy and John O’Byrne, Allen & Unwin, $35.00

The arrival of summer makes for shorter nights, but also much more pleasant ones for observing the stars. Prof John O’Byrne of the University of Sydney’ School of Physics combines with David Levy, co-discoverer of the Shoemaker-Levy comet that collided with Jupiter in full view of the world, to provide a guide for the watchers of the southern skies.

Flood Country: An Environmental History of the Murray-Darling Basin

Emily O’Gorman, CSIRO Publishing, $49.95

The Murray-Darling Basin’s ecology depends on floods, but the damage from large events, and the quest for water during dry years, has created a network of engineering schemes.

In Flood Country Emily O’Gorman traces the history of discussion about floods, from early warnings by Aborigines to white settlers to the modern debate about climate change and environmental river flows.

Resilience Practice

Brian Walker and David Salt, New South Publishing, $39.99

The science of resilience explores how complex systems respond to damage. While it is mostly applied to ecology, many of the concepts are highly applicable to social environments and computer systems.

Brian Walker and David Salt’s Resilience Thinking (AS, Nov/Dec 2006, p.47) has proven a popular introduction for students of ecological management and the interested public. In Resilience Practice the scientist and the science writer combine again to explore in greater depth how resilience can be bolstered to allow ecosystems to survive the multiple threats they face.

Critical Decisions

Peter Ubel, Text Publishing, $32.99

Shortly after receiving a very serious diagnosis is not the best time to be making life and death decisions about the treatment you should pursue. Yet often that is the situation we are faced with. Physician, behavioural scientist and bioethicist Peter Ubel looks at the dynamics of the doctor–patient relationship, argues that communication failures often lead to disastrous decisions, and sets out proposals for how we can do better.